Have you ever considered a trip to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg?
Despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe, with a population of just around half a million, hidden between Germany, Belgium and France Luxembourg holds quite a couple of superlatives: It is the only Grand Duchy in the world, the second richest country in the world, one of the three seats of the European Union, one of the biggest financial centres, and it is one of the safest countries in the world.
Well, that’s quite a list, isn’t it?
Most importantly, Luxembourg is actually a country, contrary to the common idea it mainly consists of the City of Luxembourg. Instead, it also has a lovely countryside, featuring a rugged scenery dominated by the Ardennes in the north, the low rolling hills of the Gotland area in the south along with several small historic towns. There are also more than 100 castles distributed across Luxembourg!
Chances are however, you will come for a day trip from one of the nearby countries. In this case, Luxembourg City should indeed be your first choice.
Luxembourg City is actually the perfect one day itinerary!
It is a very compact place and the main attractions are limited to a number of important sites, easily accessible either by walking or using public transport, which is easy to navigate and highly reliable.
The city’s origins are going back to 963 and it is looking at a rich and varied history.
Due to the strategic location at the crossroads of the Alzette and Petrusse rivers, Luxembourg City was of great interest to many parties and over time was ruled by Burgundian, Spanish and Austrians. Later on it was occupied by the French Revolutionary Armey and in 1815 thanks to the Treaty of Paris transformed into a Grand Duchy in personal union with the Netherlands. Only in 1867 it gained independence.
What to do and see in Luxembourg City in one day
Being a Grand Duchy, Luxembourg City off course has its own royal palace, the Grand Ducal Palace. It serves as official residence of the current reigning monarch, Grand Duke Henry and is also home to several Parliamentary offices.
The palace has an intriguing story; originally the building was used as the city hall and only in 1817 was converted into a permanent residence whilst finally in 1890 it became the home of Grand Duke Adolphe.
You can visit the interior of the palace during the summer months whilst it is closed to the public during the rest of the year; but still you can admire it from the outside.
A locally well-known local institution is Chocolate House, just across the street from the Grand Ducal Palace. There is a sheer unlimited choice of all things sweet and chocolate and every colour and shape imaginable. During warmer days, the small patio in front of the cafe is perfect to observe the guards marching up and down in front of the palace!
A place called the most beautiful balcony in Europe must offer some interesting views and Chemin de la Corniche truly delivers. hovering high above the lower town, the views over the historic structures and buildings nestled along the Alzette River below are indeed absolutely astonishing.
The Bock Casemates were built and then further extended over time by a mixture of nations including Burgundians, the Spaniards, the French, the Austrians and the German Confederation the as part of the city’s defence structure. This impressive stronghold at the time consisted of three fortified rings with 24 forts, 16 other defensive installations and indeed 23 kilometres of casemates (underground tunnels). These tunnels had the capacity to shelter thousands of soldiers along with workshops, kitchens, bakeries, slaughter-houses and much more to guarantee the continued care of the population in case of a siege or attack.
Most of the historic defence construction were demolished after the declaration of neutrality in 1867. However, the casemates carved into the underground could not been removed without also demolishing parts of the city above. Hence they were merely sealed; with still around 17 kilometres of this construction remaining which in part is actually open to the public today.
Luxembourg City is also home to Notre Dame Cathedral, also called the Luxembourg City Cathedral.
Originally a Jesuit church, construction of the cathedral started in 1613, featuring a late gothic architecture whilst also having many renaissance elements. It was consecrated as the Church of Our Lady in the mid-19th century and in 1870 was elevated to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame by Pope Pius IX.
Place d’Armes, located in the pedestrian part of the old town, is a popular spot and boasts a large number of stores, cafes and restaurants.
A bit odd since most ancient towns were built on top of a hill to make it more defendable against an invasion, the oldest part of Luxembourg City is actually the city’s lower town. Quite tellingly, this part is called Grund (literally meaning ground in German), located directly on the banks of the Alzette River.
The area is actually much less crowded as the upper old town. Stroll along the river for some beautiful views of the historic buildings and quaint cobble-stoned streets.
If you don’t want to walk down all the way from the upper town (or maybe you don’t want to climb up again), there is an elevator at Plateau du Saint Esprit near the Chemin de la Corniche.
Located in the Grund district you will find one of Luxembourg’s well known structures, Neumünster Abbey. It was originally built in 1606 as replacement for an abbey located on the Altmünster plateau which was destroyed. This led to its name; literally ‘alt’ means old and ‘neu’ means new.
The new abbey was also destroyed by fire but rebuild and later on also extended. It actually became a police station and prison after the French Revolution and later served as barracks for the Prussians. Since the end of the 1990s, it is home to the European Institute of Cultural Routes.
A city trip is not complete without some stops to sample local food and have a coffee or any other drink to refresh from exploring.
Have you been to Luxembourg City yet? I’d be curious to know if you liked it!